HomeMusicBrent Johnson's Lost Songs: 'Margaret Vs. Pauline' by Neko Case

Brent Johnson’s Lost Songs: ‘Margaret Vs. Pauline’ by Neko Case

brent johnson digs up another lost treasure, this week from Neko Case …

That voice. It’s the first thing you notice about Neko Case’s music. It’s rich and clear, but also belts from your speakers, commanding your attention. It’s maybe my favorite female voice in popular music.

But she’s also an underrated songwriter.

Some of you don’t know her at all, of course. And some of you know her as one of the singers for indie-pop icons The New Pornographers — lending sassy, booming vocals to the candy-colored tunes written by Carl Newman. (Pop-Break’s Erin Petrie wrote about them today in her great Music Cities U.S.A. column.)

On her solo work, though, Case pens haunting, sultry Americana music. She subtly bends traditional song structures and often lets her supple voice drift into unexpected melodies. She’s also full of wicked lyrics that reference killer whales, tornadoes and her hometown of Tacoma, Wash.

One of her most affecting songs is ‘Margaret Vs. Pauline,’ the tale of two girls from different sides of town. Listen to the way Case’s voice rises on the last note. Or how Garth Hudson — the keyboardist for legendary rockers The Band — adds a piano part that dances in between the melody. Or how the lyrics are a prime example of English 101: Show don’t tell …

Two girls ride the blue line
Two girls walk down the same street
One left her sweater sitting on the train
The other lost three fingers at the cannery

P.S. — If you really want to feel the power of Case’s voice, try ‘Maybe Sparrow,’ another track culled from Case’s most affecting album, 2006’s Fox Confessor Brings The Flood.


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